Catching up (some)

31 08 2012

Here’s a little of what Team Alchemist has been up to recently:

Nicole and Paul Sherwen

Nicole and Paul Sherwen. Paul begged and begged to get a pic with the Alchemist Wool Jersey. Stage 1 of the USAPC.

Heather winning the Xterra Lory

Heather winning the Xterra Lory. Heather is the Team Alchemist Tri representative and stud athlete. Going to World’s, Heather?

Paul on the home stretch at Leadville

Paul looking strong and comfy in an Alchemist Team Kit while bringing it home at the Leadville Trail 100 mtb race. Notice the phrase made famous by Jens Voigt in the background. Paul went on to complete the outrageous Leadman Competition, finishing in the top 5 of Leadmen. This year drew the strongest field of Leadmen in the race series’ history. Way to go Paul!

Paul representing on the 10k run.

Paul representing on the 10k run, the day after the 100 mile mtb bike.

Amy sporting the Alchemist Kit last spring

Amy rockin’ the Alchemist Kit last spring. El Diablo’s caption for this pic? “Woman with a killer bush.”

Team Alchemist on a winter ride

Team Alchemist on an early season ride. I’m a little late posting this one. From left: Ken, Disco, Travis, Wu.

Mat at the Leadville Trail 100 run

Team Alchemist athlete, Mat “Yes, I wore these Hawaiian board shorts for 100 f*ckin’ miles. You got a problem with that?” D. looking relaxed the Leadville Trail 100 run. Mat ran the whole race with no pacer and no support. Animal.

 





HOMEGROWN Review on Velonews

25 08 2012

I know I need to catch up on Team Alchemist updates.  Loads of great race results from Team riders.  Those will be coming.   In the meantime, here is a review on the Alchemist HOMEGROWN BLACKBOXX Kit in Velonews.com.  We were front page for a couple days.  Can’t believe we got pushed out by less compelling articles about the USA Pro Challenge and Lance giving up the fight.  BTW, that jersey was designed for Team IMBA riders at the Firecracker and Leadville 100.  We will be producing a limited run of them for retail purchase next month.

Alchemist HOMEGROWN BLACKBOXX review in Velonews

Alchemist HOMEGROWN BLACKBOXX review in Velonews





Breck Epic Stage 6, Goldust Video

19 08 2012

The Wheeler vid was, bumpy. Well, it was a bumpy ride. Here is Stage 6, which was a luge in comparison. Final thoughts coming when I have the energy to write them. But one thing to mention is that Mike Mac, in a sleep-deprived, semi-delirious, charitable state of mind announced that 2013 Breck Epic early-bird entrants will receive a massive discount. $649 instead of the retail price of $995. That’s a discount of, like, um, a lot of coin. It’s good until Mike catches up on his sleep, which is something like a week from now. Event dates are Aug 11-16, 2013. Register at Prerace.com. http://www.prerace.com/races/event/16554/Breck-Epic





Breck Epic Stage 5, Wheeler Pass Video

19 08 2012

Breck Epic Stage 5 Wheeler Pass Elevation Profile

Breck Epic Stage 5 Wheeler Pass Elevation Profile

Wheeler. It’s a nice hike.  The red horned devil at the top of the profile?  That’s Hell at over 12,000′.

Spent too much time putting together the video. Too tired to write much.  The stabilization feature on imovie takes forever, so be forewarned, it’s kinda shaky at times.

Rode with Ken, Chris, and Team Bliss, John and Michele.  Ken and Team Bliss rode to victory.  Yeehaw.

 





Breck Epic Stage 4, The Aqueduct Stage

15 08 2012

There is a place, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no toil.  This, is not it.  –Bob Roll

Breck Epic Stage 4 Elevation Profile

Breck Epic Stage 4 Elevation Profile

42 miles. 8800′ vertical gain. Day 4, The Aqueduct stage, so named because of the massive corrugated pipe running along the trail before Aid 1, likely placed there to make sure you eat sh*t if you happened to travel on the wrong side of it.

No doubt owing to the brilliant, though semi-sadistic, nature of Mike Mac, the stages of the Epic flow day to day so that each successive day brutalizes you more than the previous.  Despite the universal utterance from finishers of each stage that that stage had to have been the hardest, it only gets worse.  After the a$$-kicking of Guyot yesterday, the Aqueduct followed with meanness in her heart and blood on her lips. Heinous Hill and Vomit Hill (yeah, I know) were lined up back-to-back to start you off with a couple swift kicks in the Jimmy.  The Keystone climb in the middle puts you in a headlock until you cry uncle.  And when you do, she finishes you off with a biblical-sized haymaker at mile 36.  It sounds like a quaint vacation spot, but Rock Island Gulch has murder on it’s mind.  The grade is over 20%, and the terrain is loose shale and rock.  Low blow, Michael.  Low blow.

But, that sinister soul also has a soft spot. And today, it was a revisit to the Colorado Trail.  Same section as day 2 (which I’ve been advertising to anyone willing to listen as the worst day I’ve ever spent on a bike),  except this time in reverse.  Yesterday, I rode with Ken and Andrew, which made the nasty Guyot stage so much more bearable. Today, I rode with Ken and Chris C (Happy 44th B-day, Chris!).  When you ride your heart out and still come in 5th, you may as well just ride with friends and enjoy the pain together.  During one of our extended yoga sessions on the Keystone climb, Team Bliss appeared.  We had passed the overall first place coed duo team early on, so it appeared that they were in first place for the stage.  John rode the Leadville 100 on Saturday (the Epic started on Sunday), so they’ve been in recovery mode until now.  But today, they were on their game. Michele led us down the CT trail, which was fast and furious, and fun.  We passed spots on the the trail that whipped up flashbacks to the blubbering and self-pity from Day 2.  But today was another day, the sun was out, and the trail was tacky and ripe.  We rode as a group into aid 3, and eventually on their way to the stage win.  Big congrats to them.  They trail the overall lead by about an hour.  But anything can happen in these races, so they still have a shot. I’m hoping they let us tag along again, so I can at least experience a win by proxy.

Team Bliss Podium

Team Bliss on top. Second place woman was too wiped to come to the podium, so their daughter stood in. 3rd place was just too wiped to show up at all.

Tomorrow is the infamous Wheeler stage.  More on that tomorrow.





Breck Epic Stage 3, Guyot Loop

15 08 2012

Breck Epic Stage 3 Elevation Profile

Breck Epic Stage 3 Elevation Profile

39 miles, 6518′ of vertical gain. The Guyot Loop is the first of three Queen stages.  The red hot poker you see on te elevation profile is the top of French Pass, which pokes out over 12,000′.   The climb to get there is predictably steep and rocky.  Well, above tree line the exposure was awesome. You can see a line of riders (hikers at that point) stretching out for a mile.

Ken, Andrew, and I decided to ride together since neither Andrew or I were  in contention, and Ken was well ahead of second place.  My legs still felt dead from the previous day, and I wasn’t sure I could hang.  But along the way, we stopped to do yoga on multiple occasions, which did wonders for my back.  By the time we topped out on French Pass, I felt like a new man.

The stage also features another piece of the Colorado Trail.  This section is fast at the top, and technical at the bottom.  With the previous day’s rain, the roots and rocks were especially sketchy.

We finished together and had a much better time of it than the day before, which was my worst day on a bike by a long shot.

Here is Ken’s recent post to friends and family:

Hello everyone,

I hope all is well where you are.  I’m half way through my annual pilgrimage through the forests and mountains around Breckenridge – also known as the Breck Epic.  After winning the Clydesdale crown (200 pounds or more) in 2010, then getting beaten out last year by a super-fit Ironman from British Columbia,  I decided I needed to come back and bring back the title to this side of the border.
We arrived Saturday evening and at the pre-race check-in there were 4 fat guys (a Texan, a local guy I didn’t know, another guy from BC, and me) ready to take the challenge.  Stage 1 is a particularly rocky stage that eats tires for dinner, as it did to me last year.   Unfortunately, there were many a victim this year, but I put brand new Maxxis Ikon tubeless tires on my bike this year, and they held up great.  I rode a pretty solid race, and whenever someone passed me I had to guess their weight.  A few guys that I saw looked close to my size, but no one was bigger.  I finished in over 4 hours, and felt OK about the day. Results are posted at the awards ceremonies are at 5pm, so I was not sure where I placed.  There were only 2 names listed in the Clydesdale category.  I was 1st, and a guy from Texas was 2nd, but he was over 2 hours behind me.  He broke the crank off of his bike and someone zip-tied it together to make it to the finish.  The other 2 guys did not even make it to the finish line.
Here is what a normal podium picture looks like:
Singlespeed Leader Macky Franklin, Brady Kappius 2nd, Dax Massey 3rd
This is what the Clydesdale podium picture looked like.  The other guy was too wiped out to make it to the ceremony.
 Clydesdale Podium Day 1
They posted the podium pictures on facebook http://www.facebook.com/breckepic, and last year’s winner posted a comment:
David Christopher Huntley Poor guy. I should have come back to defend my title. Give him some competition.
I guess he’s following the race.
With a big lead, I decided to ride with Jeff, be safe, and enjoy the great riding up here.  We woke up for Stage 2 and it was a little overcast, so we put on some arm warmers on the way out of Stuart and Jenn’s house in Breckenridge (thanks for the great accommodations!).  It started drizzling at the start, and unfortunately the rain got harder and harder throughout the day until the trails were rivers.  Luckily I packed a jacket in my aid station 1 drop bag, and kept warm enough.  I was lucky to have a lot more insulation than the average rider. This is what the singlespeed leader looked like.  I think I was muddier.
Photo: This is what the leader's jersey looks like after today's stage.
 When I made it to the awards ceremony after about 5 hours of riding, the guy from Texas had finished in about 10 hours, so my lead had grown substantially.
Here is a decent video of the stage from another rider: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYx1lFgaYBQ
Today was Stage 3.  Beautiful day.
Photo: Stage three is off under sunny skies.
Start Line – I’m not visible.
 Jeff and I rode together, and the other clydesdale came in only 5 minutes behind… maybe he’s getting warmed up.  Its too bad the Epic has torn apart the Clydesdale category, but we’re having a good time.
Sorry, that was more than I expected to send.  Better get some sleep.  Tomorrow is the biggest stage yet… and Max & Luke start 5th and 4th grades.




Breck Epic Stage 2, Colorado Trail (a.k.a. when Hell froze over)

14 08 2012

Perhaps we should consider ourselves blessed that this race has had perfect conditions the last 3 years.  Or perhaps we’ve been working on credit all this time.  But when you do business with a loan shark, payback’s a’comin’, one way or another.  And we got all paid up today, and then some.

Breck Epic Number Plate

Breck Epic Number Plate. The number you are given approximates the number of four letter words you are likely to fire off during any given stage.

Conceived nearly a decade ago, and delivered in 2008, the Breck Epic is the premier ultra-endurance mountain bike stage race in the U.S., and arguably, North America.  90% of the race takes place over 10,000′, with a sizable chunk above 12,000′.  But the thin air isn’t the only feature that makes this race special.  It boasts more singletrack riding than the Trans Alps, Cape Epic, and Trans Rockies — combined.  Another unique feature is that the trails around Breckenridge are so abundant and scenic, that each stage not only has it’s own distinctive flavor, but they also all begin, and end, in town.  So if you aren’t the camping, migratory, gypsy type (read, author is not that type), you can set up your race headquarters in any nearby condo, sleep in a real bed, and avoid any prison-style shower encounters,

But lest you get the impression that this race is for sissies (okay, perhaps for the pampered (read, the author is that type)), the shear breath of terrain and vertical gain will remind you that this race is not for the faint of heart, or legs, or lungs. 6 days, 240 miles, 37,000′ of climbing.  By roadie standards, that doesn’t sound like a challenge.  But roadies don’t climb 20% grades over roots and babyheads.  Nor do they descend through dense forests and boulder fields with their hair on fire.  They certainly don’t throw their bikes back and forth along loamy, perfectly cut, buffed-out trail on super fine singletrack, feeling, as Mike Mac describes it, like a Mother-Grabbing Jedi.  Speaking of Mike, this passage from his description of Stage 5 pretty much sums of the feisty nature of this race.

” . . . if you’re reading this, you faced the rabid Aqueduct stage down, met its stare and made it look away.  You stood your ground. Well this old b*tch has one more card up her sleeve, one more knife in her boot and one more cruel sucker punch to throw before she’ll kneel before you.  And its name is Wheeler.”  --Mike Mac, Breck Epic 2011

The Breck Epic is not only a mountain bike race, it is a collective effort to raise funds to support a number of worthy non-profits.  The local IMBA chapter (which actually predates IMBA), The Summit Fat Tire SocietyFriends of the Dillon Ranger District, and Willa’s Wheels, which supports the Raymond Wentz Foundation for cancer patient financial assistance.

On a less profound note, the Breck Epic is also serving as the Single Speed Stage Race World Championships (SSSRWC).  Why not so profound? Have you ever met a singlespeeder? (n.b., author rides a singlespeed, but wimped out this time and opted for gears)

So, about Stage 2 . . .

The start on Washington St. was a gloomy, drizzly affair, no doubt ready to burn off and become more seasonable by mid-morning.  As we made the turn off onto the first climb, Mike was there to greet us.  “Bright blue sky just beyond!”.

His words of encouragement were somehow mitigated by the volunteer standing next to him.  “It’s going to f**king pour.”

Somewhere in between was certain to lie the truth.  The drizzle became a steady rain, which at times, became a downpour.  It was only made tolerable by the fact that the first couple climbs were so intense that you may as well have been wet from sweat.  But as we crested Vomit Hill (yes, there is a Vomit Hill, and I imagine you can guess why it is so named), I realized that the impending gravity-hungry descent was going to be, chilly.  It only got colder from there.

I’ve been that cold one other time in my life.  Caught in a freak snowstorm on a stout little climb called Logan Mill in Boulder, we descended in our summer attire through blinding, wet snow.  By the time I made it home, I was hypothermic and had lost all feeling and function of my hands.  Failing multiple times to use my knuckles to punch in the correct code to my garage, I had a panic moment and thought, “I’m going to freeze to death in front of my f**cking garage!”  That moment was reenacted many times over today, except it lasted for hours.  By mile 15, a non-stop shiver had set in.  Teeth chattering and dizzy, I couldn’t hold a line going up, and worse, I looked like a clown on acid trying to descend, with shiver-induced speed wobbles nearly taking me out in what history books might describe as, a glorious, fiery exit.

Stage 2 features mind-blowingly fun trail.  The piece of singletrack on the Colorado Trail is fast, flowy and swoopy.  It is graded and formed so that you only need to occasionally feather your brakes as you lean and work your bike to and fro.  It is pretty close to a perfect trail.  So when we finally arrived at the descent, I was a little more than disappointed that I was too cold and numb to enjoy it.  I mainly tried to stave off the relentless daydreams about hot showers and gooey bacon cheeseburgers.  I had held out hope that the sun would pop out at any minute, or that it would at least stop raining, but by aid 2, I was ready to pull the plug.  The aid volunteers sheparded me under the tent, and I gorged on orange slices and bananas.  By the time I had worked my way through three-quarters of the cut oranges, they were ready to kick me out.  My friend, Chris, saw me shivering and pulled out a pink shower cap.  “Here, put this on your head, it’ll keep you warm.”

I noticed he was wearing one too, and I had no reason to dispute it, so I donned the cap like a cheery lunch lady.  Only later did I wonder why he was carrying two shower caps, and if so, what the hell else was he carrying with him?  Assessing the sad state I was in, one of the volunteers hinted that there was an easy, direct route home.  In fact, our condo was no more than half a mile away, and I had 10 more miles to the finish, which included a particularly steep, slippery, rooty climb.  But I’d just as soon freeze off a toe than quit a race, so I saddled back up and limped home.  An impromptu shuttle service was set up by the volunteers at the finish, and they spotted me wimpering next to the pretzels.  “We’d better take that guy first.”

I’m not used to being that guy.  Embarrassing Strava data here. I’m pretty sure I heard my Garmin laughing when I crossed the finish.

Breck Epic Stage 2 Elevation Profile

Breck Epic Stage 2 Elevation Profile

Dirty bike

This is AFTER I cleaned it.  I’ve never been described as meticulous.

Jeff Wu is the founder of Boulder-based, Alchemist.  When he isn’t designing sustainable custom cycling jerseys and apparel, he is a father, mountain biker, and ER doc.








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